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Civic Influencers at Drexel Don't Take a Year off in Democracy

April 17, 2023

Civic Influencers holding event at Dragon Statue on starry blue background
Drexel Civic Influencers hold an event at the Mario Statue. Photo courtesy of Olivia Maddox.

Pennsylvania’s last big election was just a few months ago, but there are no off years in democracy. The May 16 election will indicate a leading choice for the city’s 100th mayor as citizens sort through 10 candidates in the Democratic primary. The mayoral election will take place in November and there is currently one Republican in the mayoral race, former At-Large City Councilmember David Oh.

That’s a lot to sort through, but Drexel University (and Philadelphia) has plenty of resources to help you make your choice.

Let’s start with the basics. The deadline to register to vote in the primary is May 1, and you can do so online. Pennsylvania holds closed primaries, which means you have to be a registered Democrat or Republican to vote in each party’s mayoral primary, but anyone can vote on the four ballot measures that are to be decided in May. But wait, there’s more — a lot more. Also up for election are all 17 city councilmembers, the Controller’s Office, the City Commissioners, Sheriff, Register of Wills and several municipal and statewide judges.

If all that sounds a little overwhelming, don’t worry. There’s always the Committee of Seventy or Ballotpedia to help break down each race and ballot measure. Drexel also has several Civic Influencers, who are students that work to engage their peers in voting and other civic engagements by hosting multiple in-person events each term. Environmental science major Olivia Maddox ‘26 has been a Civic Influencer for about a year and even though last year was busy with the midterm elections, she said this year’s workload is pretty similar.

“This year our main goal is getting the word out because a lot of our friends we've talked to don't know that there's an election coming up,” Maddox said. “We’ve also noticed that once our friends know the election is happening, it can be difficult to vote in college when your address is constantly changing, so we help a lot with how to get an absentee ballot or change your location to Philly.”

So now that you know how to vote, who should you be voting for? That’s up to you. College of Arts and Sciences Professor of political science  Bill Rosenberg, PhD, offered some advice and insight on the candidates and suggested voters do their homework on the many candidates.

“Just like national politics is greatly influenced by how many candidates are running, so will this Democratic primary,” Rosenberg said. “A candidate won’t have to have a huge number of supporters to win the nomination, and the people who have chosen to run are a diverse group with a variety of pathways. Some have come through the political ranks; some have never been an elected official. Then there are other people who have had different forms of mentorship. You have to make a judgement about what type of leadership you want.”

And you should make a decision about what matters most to you. Local politics have more of an impact on your day-to-day life than larger-scale elections, and Maddox pointed out that Philadelphia politics will impact Drexel students more often because school goes year-round. Alongside information from the Civic Influencers, the Lindy Center is a resource students can tap into year-round to learn, engage, reflect on and gain a deeper understanding of issues and how to make social change in Philadelphia and beyond.

“I know a lot of students are really concerned with public safety right now, and that's definitely something that's going to be impacted by the mayoral election,” Maddox said. “We hear a lot of, ‘Why does it matter?’ or ‘I don’t know anything about politics, so why should I vote?’ We direct people to voting guides so they can feel informed enough to vote.”

With about a month to go until the primary, things will start heating up. Maddox and her fellow Civic Influencers will host tabling events to help students get registered and advocate for the need to vote and be engaged in local politics. They will be providing students with information about voting, how to register and helping students find their polling places — if you send the Civic Influencers a DM on their @DrexelVotes Instagram account, they’ll help you track yours down.

Around the city, voters will be making their decisions.

“The tradition is that people often don't decide who they're going to vote for until about a month out or so, because that’s when people will sort out which attributes and skill sets and experience are most important to them in the next mayor of Philadelphia,” Rosenberg said. “People choose different candidates based upon different criteria. Some of it has to do with their political experience. Some of it has to do with their issue positions. Some of it has to do with whether or not they're good at working with people across the board. With so many candidates, it’s about what issues are important to each voter.”